PILLARS AND GLOBES, COLUMNS AND CANDLESTICKS Part 3 of 4
MAPS: MASONRY UNIVERSAL
The tradition that the globes on Solomon’s Pillars were covered with celestial and terrestrial maps is certainly post‑biblical, and appears to be a piece of eighteenth‑century embroidery to the ritual. We may wonder how this interest in earthly and heavenly maps arose, and there seems to be no sure answer. The early catechisms, 1700 to 1730, all indicate a growing interest in the subject, e.g.
- How high is your lodge?
- …it reaches to heaven…the material heavens and the starry firmament.
- How deep?
- …to the Centre of the Earth.
There are also the more frequent questions relating to the Sun, Moon and Master Mason, with subsequent variations and expansions. (See Knoop. Jones and Hamer. The Early Masonic Catechisms, 2nd edition, 1963, Sloane MS, 1700, p 48. Dumfries No 4 MS, 1710, p 62. And Prichard’s Masonry Dissected, 1730, p 162.) These questions may well be the first pointers towards the subsequent interest in maps, and the armillary sphere of 1745, noted above, carries the subject a stage further.
The Lodge Summons of the Old Dundee Lodge, dated c1750, showed three pillars, two of them surmounted by globes depicting maps of the world and the firmament. A certificate issued by the Lodge of Antiquity in 1777 displayed, inter alia, a similar pair of maps. The 1768 edition of J. and B. has an engraved frontispiece showing the furniture and symbols of the lodge, including two pillars surmounted by globes ‑ one with rather vague map markings, and the other clearly marked with stars. The various sets of geographical globes in pairs, described above (not “pillar‑globes”), all indicate a deep Masonic interest in the celestial and terrestrial globes during the eighteenth century.
Preston, in his Illustrations of Masonry, 1775 edition, in the section dealing with the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences, dwelt at some length on the globes and on the importance of astronomy and, of course, on the spiritual and moral lessons to be learned from them. All this seems to imply that the maps were beginning to appear at this time, in the verbal portions of the ritual.
The introduction of maps, “celestial and terrestrial”, led to a further development which eventually gave the Craft a phrase that has become a kind of hall‑mark of Freemasonry everywhere. The first hint of that expression appeared in l’Orde des Francs‑Magons Trahi, 1745, which added a new question to those passages in the catechism:
- And its depth?
- From the Surface of the Earth to the Centre.
- Why do you answer thus?
- To indicate, that Free‑Masons are spread all over the Earth, and all together they form nevertheless only one Lodge.
In 1760, Three Distinct Knocks (Antient’s ritual) altered the final answer very effectively:
- Why is your Lodge said to be from the Surface to the Centre of the Earth?
- Because that Masonry is Universal.
In 1762, J. & B. (Moderns’ ritual) gave the same answer, word for word. That is how we acquired the catchphrase “Masonry Universal”.
THE PILLARS AS ARCHIVES
The biblical accounts of the casting of the pillars make no mention of their being cast hollow, although this may be inferred from the fact that, if they had been solid, their removal from Zeradatha and their final erection at Jerusalem would have been a quite exceptional feat of engineering. Jeremiah 3 v. 21, states that they were formed hollow, the metal being cast to a thickness of ‘four‑fingers’, but there is no suggestion that this was done so that the pillars might serve as “armoires”, or containers of any kind, or that Solomon used them for, storing the constitutional Rolls.
Here again is a curious piece of eighteenth‑century “Masonic embroidery”, and it seems possible that this was an attempt to link the pillars of Solomon with the two earlier pillars upon which “all the sciences” had been preserved. The earliest Masonic note I have been able to find on the subject is extremely vague. In 1769, Wellins Calcott wrote in his Candid Disquisition, p 66: “…neither are the reasons why they were made hollow known to any but those who are acquainted with the arcana of the society…”
This was undoubtedly intended to suggest that the hollow pillars were designed to serve some peculiarly Masonic purpose, but Calcott says nothing more on the subject, and I have been unable to trace any such reason for hollow pillars in eighteenth‑century Masonic ritual.
THREE LIGHTS: THREE PILLARS: THREE CANDLESTICKS
Seventeen Masonic documents have survived, dated from 1696 to 1730, and they provide the foundation for our study of the evolution of the ritual. The earliest of them is the Edinburgh Register House MS (ERH), dated 1696, with a valuable description of the two‑degree system of those days. The last of that series is Samuel Prichard’s Masonry Dissected (MD), which contains the oldest ritual of the three degrees, and the earliest version of the Hiramic legend. In all these early texts the ritual was mainly in the form of catechism, and we get some idea of its development during those thirty‑five years when we compare these two documents. The first contains fifteen questions and answers for the EA, and two for the “master or fellow‑craft”. Masonry Dissected has 155 Q and A in all, i.e. ninety‑two for the EA; thirty‑three for the FC; thirty for the MM.
Twelve of the oldest rituals contain a question on the “lights of the lodge”: “…Are there any lights in your lodge, yes three…”[ERH, 1696] The lights soon acquire a symbolic character, but originally they were probably candles or windows, with particular positions allocated to them, e.g. “NE, SW, and eastern passage”, or “SE, S, and SW”, etc., until we reach MD in 1730, which says the lights are three windows in the E, S and W and their purpose is “To light the Men to, at, and from their work”. MD distinguishes between symbolical lights and “fix’d lights”, explaining that the latter are “large Candles placed on high Candlesticks”.
Symbolically, several texts say that the lights represent, “the Master, Warden and fellow‑craft.” Four versions say “Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” Three others say twelve lights, “Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Sun, Moon, Master‑Mason, Square, Rule, Plum, Line, Mell, and Chisel”. All these are of the period c1724‑26.
MD says “Sun, Moon and Master‑Mason” and after the question “Why so?” he answers “Sun to rule the Day, Moon the Night, and Master‑Mason his Lodge”. So we trace the lights from their first appearance in our ritual up to the point where they acquire their modern symbolism.